Canada must act now to address hate

November 10, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Today, the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s Interim Chief Commissioner, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, issues the following statement:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is devastated by the horrific violence and humanitarian tragedy taking place in Israel and Palestine. For many in Canada, these catastrophic events are deeply personal and painful. They evoke historic, intergenerational trauma and are causing immense grief, fear, distress, and anger.

As the human rights body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights in Canada, we are deeply concerned by the recent dramatic rise in Islamophobia, antisemitism, and racism-fuelled hate in our country.

Everyone in Canada has the right to assemble peacefully, to fully participate in public and political debate, and to call out injustice. But this must never be a justification for promoting hatred or calling for violence.

We are appalled by increasing reports of hate, discrimination, and violence at places of worship, businesses, schools, public gatherings, and on social media.

When hate manifests in our communities, it is a threat to public safety, democracy, and human rights.

Hate divides us and turns us against each other. It silences people, it shuts down debate and hinders our democracy. Hate reinforces prejudice and dehumanizes people. In this way, it makes discrimination easier, and it desensitizes us to threats and violence.

Hate is thriving in the absence of legal restrictions and social rules. Without accountability, hateful behaviour that has been appallingly normalized online is now more frighteningly common in person.

Many people are feeling intimidated or afraid to speak out against hate when they hear it or see it. It is critical that rights holders and human rights defenders can express their grief and solidarity in the face of injustice and advocate for their rights in a safe and respectful space.

Our governments have a responsibility to ensure that our public spaces — both virtual and physical — are safe for all.

International human rights treaties and Canadian human rights codes, including the Canadian Human Rights Act, are critically important in preventing and addressing discrimination.

But they alone cannot protect us from the profound harms of hate.

Stopping the spread of hate and violence requires a concerted effort that spans both the civil and criminal systems. A proactive anti-hate regime has been necessary for years. It is now desperately needed.

Canada needs greater legal accountability for those who spread hate and threaten violence. The existing Criminal Code provisions are underused and ineffective. The regulation of social media is virtually nonexistent.

Current events in our country have underscored the urgency that now is the time for new legislation to address hate in Canada with a coordinated and comprehensive approach.

The Government must act now.

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The Commission is Canada’s National Human Rights Institution accredited under the UN Paris Principles, and works to promote and protect human rights within Canada.

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